What's Blooming

Ongoing post with pictures of nature in the Allegheny Highlands of Virginia and the Greenbrier Valley of West Virginia.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Take a hike....

This is a great weekend to get out and take a hike in the central Appalachians. At Greenbrier State Forest in White Sulfur Springs you can select from a variety of hikes starting at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday with a guided bird walk. The Show-Me-Hike program is now in its 42nd year with 135+ species of wildflowers identified during previous hikes. This is a great opportunity to learn about wildflowers and birds from experienced naturalist. There is also a program Friday night with speaker Dr. Steven L. Stephenson. Also on display will be 65 of my wildflower and nature photos. Call Greenbrier State Forest for more information: 304.536.2500.

In Bath County, the Warm Springs Ranger District will hold its excellent Spring Flower Hike at Blowing Springs Campground on route 39 between Warm Springs and Mountain Grove. This is a beautiful and easy hike along Back Creek with lots of things to see. The Forest Service guides are always knowledgeable and entertaining.

Cool temperatures and sunny skies should make for a great weekend to put on your boots or just some comfortable shoes and hit the trails.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Special places just around the corner

My original plan was to post to the blog on Friday so that people would have an idea of what to look for over the weekend and where to look. But recently I haven't done such a good job of getting online on Friday. This past week has been full of nice treats. I saw Yellow Lady Slippers in bloom over near Arcadia. Probably a few more weeks before we see them here in Bath. And I saw Wister's coralroot also in Botetourt County. So two orchids in bloom already. Wister's has not been recorded here in Bath County, so you should look for it during this coming week near streams flowing over limestone.
After spending hours driving around the eastern part of the county looking for leather flowers on shale barrens, I found two locations within a couple of miles of Hot Springs. There is a nice patch along 615 just 2.2 miles from Hot Springs. Some plants are low enough to see easily. This site is on private land, so respect both the fragile shale habitat and the property owner's rights. You can also see Leather Flowers on the shale at the lower end of Dunn's Gap. The plants are across the creek and some are on private property. So bring binoculars. A trek around the Forest Service trails and cross country to the top of some of these shale barrens might give a closer look and also might yield a view of Kate's Mountain Clover, another shale barren endemic.
Showy Orchis should begin to bloom this week. Plenty of bluebells still around.
Two great wildflower hikes coming up on the 28th. The 42nd annual Show-Me-Hike in the Greenbrier State Forest begins with a program Friday night and offers a variety of hikes on saturday. Also on Saturday is the Warm Springs Ranger District annual spring wildflower hike at Blowing Springs. Excellent guides are provided. I'll be in WV for the Show-Me-Hike with a selection of wildflower photos on display. Have a great week.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

April Showers

This weekend has been full of much needed rain showers starting with a series of serious storms Friday night. What a light show. A couple of the storms had what the weather people call near continuous lightning. It is the season for showers and there is plenty of opportunity to see wildflowers in between cloud burst. There is color now everywhere clear to the mountain tops. Redbud and serviceberry and fruit trees and some dogwoods. Any place you go you should see some wildflowers in bloom. The Virginia Bluebells are at peak along the Cowpasture River at the Walton Tract. The trilliums are just coming out across the county. A couple of special sites worth the trip are just north of Bath in Highland County. As you head toward Bolar on 607, look for Marsh Marigold in and along the creek. When you get to the new bridge, it is worth a stop to see a huge patch in bloom. Marsh Marigold is considered uncommon, but Highland County has some amazing patches. Just up 220 a little further, look for route 611 on your left. In the exposed shale cut are some Bleeding Hearts just coming into bloom. Go around the corner on 611 to see some big patches of this pretty flower. This is also the time of the year to be pulling up Garlic Mustard. With the ground wet, you should be able to wiggle the plants and get tap root and all. Be sure to bag and destroy the plants since they can set seed even after being pulled. The leaves and taproot are edible. Check the bathcounty.org website for some links and more information on this invasive alien plant.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Shale barrens

As of late in the day on Monday the 10th, the bloodroot is about done at the Walton Tract. The Twin leaf and Trout Lily have also passed. However, the trillium are just coming out with some pretty dark red trilliums right along the entrance road. Also, a special treat of shale barrens are about peak right around the old shale quarry on the main road in the Walton Tract. Just after the road forks a couple of times and crosses the creek, start watching on the right for an amazing variety of Bird foot violets.

Monday, April 10, 2006

The busy season begins

We finally got some good rain Friday evening and Saturday and it looks like the air will be calm for a few days so that the moisture can soak in rather than blowing away. The ground has been very dry and we need plenty of April showers. Continue to pray for rain.
Warm weather forecast for this week will have flowers popping out every where. I've seen patches of bloodroot along Rt. 39 just east of Warm Springs and along 220 in a number of locations. The Walton Tract continues to be spectacular. The bluebells are getting a good start at the canoe launch. The Marsh Marigold are in bloom in the wet areas near the canoe launch. The big patch of trillium at the bottom of the hill should be open this week along with many trillium along the road.
Our native orchids will begin to make an appearance in the coming weeks. A good find in this area would be Wister's coralroot which hasn't been recorded from Bath County but could be here. Showy Orchis will be around by the end of the month.
For those of you heading out with a camera, here are a couple of tips. Most digital cameras, even the less expensive point and shoots, can take good flower photos. Look for a macro mode setting which will allow the camera to focus when very close to the flower. You may have to move back and forth from the flower a bit to get within the focus range. You can always crop a bit later when make breaks. And don't forget that the most important piece of equipment you can carry with your camera for good flower photos is a tripod or monopod. Either of these will also help with those great shots from the overlook of the fog hanging low in the valleys in the morning.
Look for Dutchman's breeches to be blooming in many locations this week.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

April Fools

April really starts to bring out the fool in those of us who love nature and especially wildflowers. You'll see me parked along the road, leaning against the hillside with a camera or perhaps even laying in the ditch trying to get a closer look at some beauty of nature.
In this area, the Walton Tract off route42 in southeastern Bath County is still the best place I have found for flowers. I understand there are some nice beauties on the Gorge Hike at the Homestead. I'm sure there are many great spots around. Trout lily, Hepatica, Bloodroot, Tooth wort are the most common flowers that I see.
Virginia is starving for moisture right now and we really need those April showers. So when ever it rains this month, instead of complaining I'm going to celebrate and hope that we get lots of moisture for the spring and summer flowers. The weather report said Virginia only got one tenth of the precipitaion normal for March. That is not good for the plants, streams or rivers. So pray for rain.